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Holiday shoppers return for bargains
Local stores fill again as consumers cash in on sales
Belk sales associate Eunice Valencia folds jeans in the children’s department Saturday, tidying up the display after shoppers went through the deals earlier. She’s joined by co-worker Amanda Jarrard, left. - photo by Carly Sharec

The lure of after-Christmas sales was strong for Belk customers last week, particularly on Dec. 26.

“It was funny because there wasn’t a lot of returning,” Department Sales Manager Ronda Wood said. “It was people coming out to shop. There were a few returns here or there, but mostly shopping.”

Opening 6 a.m. the day after Christmas, the Lakeshore Mall store cleared $12,000 in its first hour.

“There were people waiting at every door,” she said. “It was crazy.”

Nearly 8 in 10 consumers surveyed by the retail website RetailMeNot said they planned to shop year-end sales after the holidays. The same survey also found that more than 40 percent of all shoppers will be returning some gifts, with electronics being the most popular item to return.

The 50 percent to 75 percent off signs dotting mall landscapes across the country are a final attempt by retailers to increase their holiday sales, which were apparently lackluster.

“Super Saturday” sales during the final weekend before Christmas suffered a 3.1 percent year-over-year revenue loss, according to data company ShopperTrak. Brick-and-mortar stores are expected to have excess inventory when all is said and done next week.

For Dick’s Sporting Goods at Lakeshore Mall, which opened in October, it was a successful first holiday season.

“We’ve had a tremendous business,” Soft Lines Manager Dennis Day said. “It was heavy. It was a lot of traffic for sure. And now obviously we’re in the returns season now, and exchanges, so it’s still heavy in traffic going through here.”

The sporting goods store was part of a larger revitalization effort at Lakeshore Mall, which stems from Gainesville’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan to position the mall as a “regional destination (that) could benefit the city’s economic development program.”

A steady stream of shoppers paraded through the mall Saturday afternoon, though it was still easy to find a parking space close to the entrance. However, that’s not indicative of mall traffic throughout the season, as Wood said sales are up at Belk.

“I don’t know the exact figures,” she said. “But I know we’re up from last year, and they’re doing pretty well.”

It was the same story a few minutes away at Kohl’s.

“We’ve had very large crowds this Christmas season,” assistant store manager Janee Jackson said. “The day after, we did still have a lot because people were making returns and still shopping, and all that good stuff.”

She was unsure if it would be the same level of people through this weekend, though the store continues its special return center for people looking to return or exchange those not-quite-right holiday gifts.

“People who haven’t been able to make it out this week will probably be here this weekend,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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